Mail carrier’s honest mistake worthy of suspension, not firing

Employee didn't try to hide undelivered admail in truck and claimed it was a miscommunication with her assistant

Canada Post shouldn’t have fired a mail carrier who was late delivering flyers, the Ontario Arbitration Board has ruled.

Valery Horbatiuk, 59, of Midland, Ont., was a rural and suburban mail carrier for Canada Post. On Jan. 25, 2006, Horbatiuk excerised her right to refuse unsafe work, claiming she couldn’t safely deliver mail on her rural route, which required reaching over to deliver mail through the passenger window, and repeatedly putting her body in an awkward position. She also had concerns of driving on narrow roads which didn’t allow her to get off the road to the mailbox and deliver mail in a timely manner.

A health and safety inspector recommended a paid assistant to help deliver mail through the passenger window and Canada Post hired one immediately.

During the inspection of her truck, Horbatiuk’s supervisor found admail that was supposed to have been delivered two days previously. Upon investigation, he found more flyers in an open recycling bin near her route, which he thought appeared to have been dumped together. This was an important issue as one-fifth of Canada Post’s revenue comes from the delivery of unaddressed admail and must be delivered on a timely basis. Carriers were supposed to notify management of any undelivered admail.

Horbatiuk claimed the flyers in her truck hadn’t been delivered because of a miscommunication between her and her assistant and she had just found the bundles at the end of her last shift. However, Canada Post felt it was a wilful delay of mail, which was a serious breach of trust and misconduct, and fired her.

Horbatiuk filed a complaint claiming she was fired because of her safety complaint and the undelivered admail was an honest mistake.

The board found although Horbatiuk’s supervisor was “annoyed and impatient” with her safety complaint, Canada Post did address the complaint by giving her a paid helper. Canada Post treated cases of undelivered mail consistently as major misconduct worthy of discharge, the board found, and Horbatiuk wasn’t treated any differently because of the refusal.

However, the board also found there was nothing to suggest the delay in delivery was intentional. The flyers in the recycling bin could not be identified as hers and anyone could have put them there. Horbatiuk was also upfront about the flyers in her van and didn’t try to hide them. The board felt it was likely the result of an honest mistake of confusion between Horbatiuk and her assistant, which would make the conduct “somewhat less blameworthy.”

The board found Horbatiuk’s misconduct was not dishonest and her owning up to the situation and length of service made her “rehabilitative potential” high. As a result, the trust relationship crucial to her position wasn’t breached.

The board reinstated Horbatiuk with full seniority with no loss of pay except for a five-day suspension. See Canada Post Corp. v. C.U.P.W., Local 567, 2007 CarswellOnt 9025 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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